In Rachel Joyce’s recent bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, we meet an elderly man who impulsively sets out on a walk across England. Although Harold’s journey provides present situational tension, it’s his backstory that reveals the true nature of Harold Fry and the circumstances leading to his 500-mile walk. Novels which feature protagonists of a certain age almost always place them in situations where the character must reveal something of the past to prop up the present story arc. Outside of the mystery genre—particularly cozy mysteries—there few novels whose protagonists are elderly characters living out a present crisis (other than dementia, cancer and other health issues). On Wednesday, February 20, we’ll discuss these questions and others in our topic “Mind Your Elders.” Friday’s guest host, Lynda Rutledge, joins us to talk about her debut novel, Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale.
Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale isn’t one of the few novels whose elderly protagonist has a vivid life in the present. Instead, we’re drawn into the world of a tormented matriarch whose dementia tells the backstory leading to the decay of a privileged Texas banking family. On the last day of the old millennium, Faith Bass Darling gets a message from God to rid herself of the possessions she valued more than her family so she can die unencumbered before the clock strikes midnight. Although she’s never before had a garage sale, she hauls all of her precious antiques onto her once-manicured lawn and props up a hand-painted sign. Soon everyone in town wants a piece of the old Bass/Darling mansion, and at the prices Faith is asking, nothing is out of their price range. By the time Faith’s estranged daughter, Claudia, shows up to reason with her mother, Faith is so lost in her delusion she doesn’t even believe Claudia is real. Throw in an exorcism by an Episcopal priest, a tender reconciliation between mother and daughter, and a giant explosion at millennium midnight for a rollicking end to Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale.
Interwoven within the story are selected histories of the embittered old woman’s valuable antiques as touchstones to the backstory. Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale provides a charming morality tale about putting people before pride and possessions.
A fifth generation Texan, Lynda Rutledge has hopped across literary and geographic boundaries in her writing career. She’s been a freelance journalist, travel writer, ghostwriter, restaurant and film reviewer, copywriter, college professor, book collaborator, and nonfiction author while living/writing/studying in Chicago, San Diego, New Orleans, Madrid, and lots of other heres and theres around the globe. As a freelance journalist, she’s petted baby rhinos, snorkeled with endangered sea turtles, hang-glided off a small Swiss mountain, dodged hurricanes, and interviewed the famous and not-so-famous to write dozens of articles for national and international magazines, newspapers and travel guides, her travel photographs often appearing with her work. She’s also crafted collaborative book-length nonfiction with people from all walks of life as well as a list of special charities and organizations such as the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.
Her creative writing, though, has always been the love of her writing life and the stuff of her literary dreams. She holds an MFA from the University of New Orleans and has won awards and residencies from the Illinois Arts Council, Writers League of Texas, Ragdale Foundation, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Squaw Valley Community of Writers as well as juried attendance to Sewanee Writers Conference among others. Currently, she is behaving herself in front of her computer screen in the hill country outside Austin.
Follow Lynda Rutledge on Twitter: @LyndaRutledge.